Both flipping the classroom and problem-based learning align with the ideals of the Vision and Change document and are two strategies that I have used or plan to use in the future in my classes. I flipped two of my introductory biology courses for the past two years. This was a learning experience for me as well as the students. I did receive positive feedback from many students who thought that it was an engaging method of learning. I am interested in reading more research into the effectiveness of this teaching ideology on student learning. Our department is currently redesigning our introductory courses. This upcoming year a team of faculty at my institution plan to integrate problem-based learning in a few of these redesigned courses.
I think a fundamental piece of the vision and change movement is that that to learn and understand science you have to do science. No one would question that to learn to play the piano one has to play the piano, This is of particular significance in Biology which has moved from stamp collecting to mechanism in a very short time span
The lecture and lab sections of my Intro and/or General Biology sections are held in the lab. To do lecture and lab in separate locations would be to imply that these two activities are not connected. During a lecture, I pose the key question that the students will answer in lab.
For example in a lecture on the nature of molecules, I might indicate that it is believed that molecules move. However, I do not provide the evidence. After I complete much of the content information, I play the role of skeptic and ask the students to perform an experiment that they believe supports the notion that molecules move. Typically they Google the question and arrive at various published undergrad exercises that purport to provide data for this belief. They then ask me for anything they don’t have in their regular lab kit (in this case dialysis membrane might be useful) and proceed. At each step, I play devils advocate until they convince me. This is typically an intense discussion. For example they may decide to recreate Brownian motion (they ask for carmine powder). So they show me and I say “its just bacteria moving “. So then they have to convince me that it isn’t bacteria. Typically they first rely upon morphology. It doesn’t look like bacteria (they have goggled images of bacteria). I say,” it’s a bacterium that hasn’t been described yet”! Eventually they decide to kill the “bacteria “ with heat and see whether Brownian movement persists. They do that and say “see it still moves “, then I say “but maybe you didn’t actually kill the bacteria!” They are then led to do a positive control on provided bacteria, so Occam would say if you can kill bacteria and the particles still move, maybe indeed this is evidence that water molecules move. This I accept and they get points for the proof. These are graded in real life style, if you provide compelling evidence, you get 20; if you don’t, and you get 0. So groups continue to work to get the points and there is a real life incentive to get the proof ASAP. One typically sees a remarkable increase in the ability to do science as the course proceeds.
In the next lecture we ponder that if water molecules indeed move whether that explains how water gets into cells and this leads to the next lab question. It would be very cool to follow this up with red blood cells that are k.o. with respect to aquaporin, but that would need more resources than we currently have !
You could call this problem based learning but in fact its just doing Science. !
I always try to have my students collect data and interpret it - even in non-majors classes. I have always considered teaching the process of science as really important. Recently, I have been finding myself trying to take more out of my classes so I can concentrate more on the most important things (tending towards more depth and less breadth), and dedicating more in-class time to group work and discussions (reducing the lecture time and becoming more student-centered). I have not tried to flip my classroom yet, but I am interested in trying it.
For the past two years we have used some form of flipped or on-line class assisted learning in our Biology and Anatomy and Physiology classes with varying success. We are still looking for the correct formula for our population. Many faculty do in-class hands on assisted learning, group learning, project modules with specific required outcomes, and more essay tests. We have always tried to teach labs as inquiry based especially our introductory courses. This past semester we administered an entrance and exit exam to assess readiness for content and assess our current success at student knowledge after the Biology and A&P courses. By informing the students of their reality, rather than their belief as to their knowledge base, we are increasing student buy in to engage in the classroom. We are currently reviewing competencies for all our courses and working on mapping the skills and knowledge proficiencies. We have also started project and research-based teaching in several of our classes. This science concentration is new to our college, so we are just starting with VC in mind as we develop our program.